Sparsholt College has an exciting new addition to add to its growing animal collection.

Sparsholt has long been fortunate to hold Mya the red panda on breeding loan as part of the European Breeding Programme for this Endangered species. And recently the European Studbook Keeper identified a good genetic match for him, in the shape of two year old Meeko who was bred in FOTA Wildlife Park. She has just been transported from Ireland to her new enclosure at Sparsholt and will be gradually introduced to Mya as part of the breeding programme.

Representatives from FOTA Wildlife Park said: “FOTA Wildlife Park are excited that Meeko has been moved to Sparsholt College to join her potential mate. The moving and breeding of the red pandas are important in terms of conservation for the species and we are delighted that Meeko can continue to be an important part of the breeding programme for these endangered animals.”

The transfer was due to be a quick turnaround so Animal Management students stepped in to help with the construction of Meeko’s own private enclosure. Adult red pandas aren’t very social so it’s important they each have their own sleeping box and are slowly introduced. The students worked incredibly hard to ensure the enclosure was suitable for the new arrival and finished it in record time.

Gary Clarke, Head of Exotics at Sparsholt said: “It was a lovely surprise a couple of months ago to hear from the studbook keeper that a potential breeding mate for our male was available. Meeko’s a gorgeous animal, and seems to be settling in very quickly. We’re extremely grateful to FOTA Wildlife Park for breeding Meeko, and also for bringing her over all the way from Cork.

“John McLaughlin, the Park Registrar, actually did the Foundation Degree in Zoo Resource Management at Sparsholt in 2005, so after delivering Meeko he was very interested to see how the Animal Management Centre has developed since. It certainly helps with fostering such links that there are Sparsholt alumni in nearly every zoo in the UK and Ireland!”

Earlier on in the year Sparsholt launched The National Zoo Academy which represents the gold standard for anyone aspiring to enter, already employed in or wanting to develop their skills in the zoo industry. Sparsholt is a full member of BIAZA and the Animal Management Centre was one of the first licenced zoos in a UK College or University. Because of this the Animal Management Centre is able to accommodate exotic species as part of its extensive animal collection.

The Animal Management team hope the pair prove to be compatible so that by the time red panda mating season comes around, in the winter months, they’ll be on friendly terms. The arrival of the female red panda is the first of many exciting happenings involving the Animal Management Centre. A further £2 million investment in Animal Health and Welfare training facilities is due to be completed next year.